Urbanization and Industrialization: the Effect on American Society
Urbanization and industrialization were inevitable ideologies that heavily affected American society from 1919 to 1941 but also still influence today’s society. Urbanization and industrialization are both co-dependent, as Urbanisation provides the workforce and industrialization provides the employment to enable their lifestyle. The industrialization of America caused many people to seek new higher-paying work opportunities. Although this consumeristic era seemed prosperous and is reflected on as the roaring twenties, it was made on an unstable economic foundation made up of loans and focused employment leading the US to the great depression. Issues arose with urbanization and the government tried to limit these problems by introducing the 18th amendment or prohibition of the act of 1919. The prohibition was introduced to minimize crime and drinking however it only increases drink and gave bootleggers and mob bosses an opportunity for diversifying the illegal operations. American society became urbanized and an increase of American immigrants, the US citizens found comfort in reaffirming their traditional values. With the uncertainty of times of rapid change Americans embraced their conservative attitudes which allow for discrimination like the Ku Klux Klan, and religious fundamentalism.
During the 1920s the migration of people from the countryside to the cities increased due to the new job opportunities and lifestyle. In Detroit in 1900 the, the total population was about 285 000, 40 years later in the 1940s, the population was 1 623 000 which is an increase of about 550%. Advancements in technology and electrical developments led to significant increases and improvements in various major industries, which created employment. For example, the industrialization in the car industry lowered the cost of production, which lead to greater affordability and practicality which in turn led to increasing in sales and employment. By Henry Ford paying his factory employees a generous $5 a day, the highest paid rate in the world for factory workers, he was able to attract employees from all over America and also sustained high productivity. Ford implemented consumer choice into General Motors and by 1930 it took the lead in the motor industry. By 1929 there was one car to every 5 people in comparison to Great Brittan where there was one car to 43 people. After World War I people sought to restore happiness and a normal fun lifestyle. So, a new consumerist ideology developed where people found comfort in purchasing new products like cars and electrical devices. They also became increasingly interested in modern entertainment like Jazz and films. The consumerist society was endorsed by the increase of the real per-capita income from $552 to $716 P.A. and a massive increase of the nation's income from 59.4billon to 87.2 billion. Conversely, people were forced to take out loans and credit lines in order to pay for these goods which completed the cycle of loans, purchasing products, increased product production, and increased employment. The economist JK Galbraith identified that careless loan regulation and the absence of government caused the smaller banks that had no deposit insurance and couldn’t pay depositors in the event they rush to withdraw their money and lead the banks to shut down, this did happen, and was one of the major causes for the great depression
On 16th January 1920, one of the most usual habits and traditions in US society came to an end. The 18th amendment or Volstead act 1919, which gave the guidelines of how the prohibition will be enforced. One year later, all production, importing, exporting, transporting, and selling of intoxicating liquors was absolutely prohibited. This law was created in the hope of achieving a reduction of alcohol consumption, which in turn would reduce crime and poverty. The prohibition act was one of the most violated laws, not only did it continue to be manufactured but they consumed greater quantities. Prohibition combined with urbanization lead to the evolution of Bootleggers. Bootleggers were a highly paid group of people who ran well-organized secret productions, transportation, and sale of more potent hard liquor. From drinking more of this unregulated hard liquor, the rate of alcohol-related deaths due to poisoning drastically increased from 1,064 in 1920, to 4,154 in 1925. Within a week of Congress outlawing the sale of alcohol, it became a lucrative business for the gangster bosses. As a result of the social displeasure of the urbanization US society, it inadvertently supported the organized gangster bosses. One of the biggest gangsters in the prohibition era was Al Capone, he had annual earnings of $60 million, he had the power and wealth to buy off key politicians and officials to ignore his illegal dealings due to the current economic depression in the US. The prohibition sought to minimize alcohol consumption and slow down crime.
Urbanized and industrialized America had many opportunities, it attracted immigrants from all over the world and it created hostility between Americans and other races. Between 1880 and 1920, more than 25 million immigrants settle in America. They lived in cities working as unskilled laborers in factories. After WWI the need for unskilled labor decreased. In order to limit immigration to the US, the government set up a quote system which restricted the number of immigrants that could settle in the US. Many of the American immigrants were discriminated against because of the country they were from and their race. With social tensions rising with the initial phase of the great depression, and rising immigration people where open to radical ideologies, which saw the re-establishment of the Ku Klux Klan being as a solution their problems. The Tulsa Race Riot, occurred over 18 hours on May 31, 1921, a white mob with guns attacked residents, homes and businesses in the predominantly black Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. “As a white girl screamed at a colored boy in the elevator allegedly attempted to assault her in the public elevator”. This event remains one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. history, News reports were largely squelched, despite the fact that Race Riot Commission concluded that “between 100 and 300 people were killed and more than 8,000 people made homeless over those 18 hours in 1921”. As In 1918 America retreated from world affairs which reinforces the speculation that America was becoming isolationist and reinforcing American traditions. The idea of Christian fundamentalism was a key factor of Americanism, which aimed to revise traditional Christian beliefs throughout US society. Tennessee's Butler Act was an act that made it illegal to talk against denying the Biblical account of mankind's origin. The Scopes Trial, was the prosecution of science teacher John Scopes for teaching evolution in a Tennessee public school. The trial was viewed as an opportunity to publicly challenge the Tennessee Butler Act and to advocate for the legitimacy of Darwin’s theory of evolution and question this Americanism ideology that spread through the urbanized American society.
Urbanization and industrializing are natural progress of human life. There were many events that happened in America between 1919 – 1940s which built off each other creating what we see today. Urbanization and industrialization aren’t new ideologies, they have had a major influence on every community and country past and present. The Advancements made in technology and electrical industrialized the car industry and household goods. The industrializing of the market allowed and encouraged the urbanization and immigration of the US. With the insecurity of rapid change and a large amount of immigration, Americans embraced their conservative attitudes which allowed for discrimination like the Ku Klux Klan, and religious fundamentalism to become plausible. Urbanization and industrialization were major influences on US society in 1919-1940s.